Posted 17 May 2019
Gingerbread Fundraising Officer Daniel writes about his experience of growing up in a single parent family, and why he’s taking part in our Virtual Marathon as a tribute to the strength of his parents. On...
Posted 10 July 2018
I put off going on a ‘proper’ holiday ever since my son was born as I just couldn’t get my head around the logistics of traveling on my own with a toddler. The plane journey didn’t actually worry me but I couldn’t work out how I was supposed to make my way out of my car, through check in/security/passport control, and onto a plane on my own with suitcases, a buggy and an active toddler – and then repeat at the other end!
Before I had my son, however, travelling was my thing, so the travel bug has been nagging for a few years. Last year, I booked a trial run to Edinburgh for one night to see how we got on. Then, we braved a couple of nights in Budapest in February. Apart from discovering my son has a severe aversion to security (literally terrified!) and that electronic passport control is a nightmare on your own with a child – do you send your child through first and hope/pray he waits nicely and you don’t have any issues scanning your passport, or do you go first and let someone else scan him through behind you, assuming there’s even ‘someone’ there willing to help? – both trips went well, so late last year, I bit the bullet and booked an all-inclusive package holiday to a resort in Majorca in June.
My idea of hell – but, most importantly, I thought my son (now three and a half) would love it.
The journey actually wasn’t as bad as I’d anticipated. We got to the airport early enough that check-in was fine. He had a little meltdown at security and I had the usual dilemma at electronic passport control, but I was prepared for that. We even had time for breakfast and the flight left on time. There was a little delay at the other end while we waited for everyone to get on the coach to the hotel, but all in all, it was a good journey.
Once we arrived at the resort, I was happy with our room and loved all of the swimming pools – those were the real plus points for me. With hindsight, I would have chosen somewhere closer to the town as I don’t like being a captive audience but that’s a lesson learned for next time.
What absolutely does not work for a single parent is the buffet. Where to start? Firstly, my son does not love noisy, crowded environments, and the buffet at 6pm is pandemonium. It meant he played up from the second we walked in. I am amazed that he didn’t actually cause an accident of some sort, particularly the evening he decided to lie down in the middle of the busiest queue for food! He wasn’t having a tantrum; it was just his way of coping with the noise. He was marginally better at breakfast and lunchtime as it was slightly less crowded (but only marginally).
He’s too young for me to leave him on his own at the table, particularly in a restaurant of that size, so every single time we needed to get anything, he had to come with me. Just picture trying to get plates of food and drinks while making sure your child looks up and walks in a straight line – if I had a pound for every time I said either ‘look up’ or ‘walk straight’ while we were away, I would be a rich lady!
Then you forget a napkin, or he says he wants a piece of bread, so back you both go. It was incredibly stressful. I wasn’t thinking about what we were eating, which should be a big part of an all-inclusive holiday; I was literally grabbing whatever was most convenient. Not one person offered to help or carry something – in fact, I felt like people were tutting or looking at us. I’m still not sure if it was with intrigue or pity, but either way, it was not a nice feeling.
In the first couple of days, I lost count of the times my unfinished food and drink was taken away, or we lost our table because I’d gone to get bread, water or cutlery and the waiting staff thought we’d left because I had to take my son with me. I got smarter at that though, and took personal items with me to leave on the table so people would know we were still there.
I decided to try one of the resort restaurants one night as I was hoping it would be quieter and waiter service might make it a little less stressful. Sadly, it was only waiter service for the main course so we still had to brave the buffet for starters and dessert. What really upset me though was being asked three times by three different waiters if we were waiting for someone to join us!
Thankfully for us on Day Four, my son started playing with another little girl who happened to be there with her single mum and grandma (both of whom thought I was mad for doing it on my own) and we spent the rest of the week with them. It literally transformed the holiday for me. It must have been fate that the only two children in the whole resort with single parents found each other!
I think many single parents will feel the same. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me and I’m very fortunate that we can afford to go on a nice holiday but in the 21st century, families come in all shapes and sizes and my family happens to just be the two of us. We are quite happy hanging out together on our own – don’t judge!
Will I go abroad on holiday again? Definitely. Will I go to an all-inclusive resort again? Almost certainly not. It just didn’t work for us. It’s a shame, as with a little bit of training for employees working at airports and in hotels, it could have been a really positive experience.
Look out for people on their own or struggling with bags, and be nicer to children – don’t yell ‘what’s wrong with him?’ at a child who has never been to an airport before and does a runner because he is terrified of security.
And don’t get me started on the travel industry’s use of plastic…